San Jose underground metal band Pale Existence has posted its 1994 demo, “Dark Tranquility,” for those who missed the original tape to hear. Clocking in at just over 20 minutes, it shows influences from death metal, grindcore, the nascent black metal scene and doom metal, all without sabotaging any one of those by trivializing it, instead blending them into a unified voice.
1. Dismal Paths
2. Dark Tranquility
5. Subconscious Weeping
6. Visions of the Disconsolate
Mark Smith – vocals
Lorin Ashton – guitar and vocals
Bud Burke – guitar and vocals
Brian Glover – drums and vocals
Steve Cefala – fretless bass
Recorded by Brett Tyson at Studio B in Campbell on January 29 and February 3, 1994.
Way back in the halcyon days of 1999, Steve Cefala (Dawning, Pale Existence) joined forces with Mike Beams (Exhumed), Brian Glover (Bred For Slaughter, Pale Existence) and Jon Nedbal (Disembodiment, Bred For Slaughter) to make detuned high-volume death/doom metal. From those sessions emerged this 25 minute demo which owes as much to early grindcore as to death metal and doom metal.
The constant assault of “Demo 1999” calls to mind bands like Mortician that intended to make thunderous slow primitive death metal, and energetic heavy-bass assault grindcore bands like Drogheda. The result alternates between slow grinding passages and picked up two-chord uptempo charges, aiming with these basic songs more to create atmosphere than work in a dozen riffs in the death metal style. Like deathgrind slowed down but without the insistence on utterly basic catchy rhythms, taking more of the Napalm Death approach of making basic rhythms sound alien and unnerving, Nothing Left surges like the pulsing sounds of tanks passing in the night on their way to an apocalyptic battle.
Primarily influenced by Mayhem, Brujeria and Mortician, Nothing Left existed for a few short years. To get their signature sound, the band tuned down almost an octave and played at top volume through two full stacks and giant overdriven bass cabinets, then ran the bass through a DOD Meatbox subharmonic pedal that generates a companion tone two octaves below. The result throbs and hangs in the air like a nuclear blast, rumbling and surging within its slowed-down rhythms. True to its influences, it takes the low-fi primitive grind sound and gives it the expansive atmosphere of black metal while reducing all that it creates to incomprehensible destruction. For those who can confront such a monster, band has made the full demo available on YouTube.
Metal is not a job and will never pay the bills. Hence many metal musicians move on to other careers. Sometimes this includes other forms of music. Such is the case of Lorin Ashton, a/k/a Bassnectar, who previously was in a black/doom metal band called Pale Existence.
Correctly intuiting that metal would not pay the bills, and being from the already-undernoticed San Jose scene which got obscured by the greater prominence of nearby San Francisco, Ashton migrated from underground metal to playing multiple DJ sets a day in an effort to develop his hybrid style.
The result was Bassnectar, a merging of afterhours club music and sonic torment which showed its heavy metal origins. While Ashton retains his long hair and metal/punk tshirts collection, this lengthy history of involvement in underground metal is probably lost on his audience.
Pale Existence also featured Steve Cefala of doom/black metal band Dawning. Most fans don’t know of this underground history, so we present a comparison of Lorin Ashton a/k/a Bassnectar in both the old days as Pale Existence and in his newest form: